When I first told people that I wanted to start my own business I was met with polite but not so polite laughter as well as the, “Oh, honey, you need to get a real job.” So needless to say I can empathize with small business owners when it comes to the neigh sayers because the sad truth is that not everyone is going to be your cheerleader.
Now, when you encounter these neigh sayers you can do one of two things. You can slam that friendship door right in their face. Or, you can ignore them and do what you want anyway. I chose to do the latter.
Fortunately, on the path to opening your own business you are bound to meet likeminded people who will cheer you on and vice versa. Stick with that crowd because believe me you’ll be better off. There’s a quote by Farrah Grey which I believe wholeheartedly, “Build your own dreams, or someone else will hire you to build theirs.”
If you’re like me and you read this quote you’ll get really excited and won’t be able to sit still. Guess what that means.
You are meant to open your own business.
If you’re excited every morning to get to work on your business
You are meant to open your own business.
Forget the statistics and the neigh sayers. If you have an idea, the market is in need of your niche focused business, and you have butterflies in your stomach
You were meant to open your own business.
So, how do you get started?
First, you should figure out why you’re doing what you’re doing.
For example, I want my business to connect small businesses with each other. You can be as vague or as specific as you want but this will come in handy later when you’re writing your mission statement.
Secondly, you should write a business plan.
This is a vital step because a business plan is a synopsis of the potential of your business and it can also be what convinces someone to fund or not fund your idea.
Thirdly, social media is a must.
However, it’s best to focus on one or two platforms at a time so you don’t get overwhelmed by underwhelming results. For example, because it has a business page and is the most popular social media platform thus far, most businesses start with FaceBook.
It’s great to figure out why you’re starting your business and experiment with social media. But, writing a business plan is one of if not the most important step in starting a small business.
As a small business it’s hard to compete with the titans when it comes to branding. However, I’m here to tell you a few tips and tricks to come up with a branding plan for your small business.
1. Define your brand
Your brand is you. You are your brand. When you are first thinking about branding you have to figure out what your brand means to you. WHY are you providing the goods or services that you are providing?
2. Personalize your brand
Your brand is a person. It is personal to you. You want your customers to think of your brand as a person so they feel comfortable providing the valuable feedback you desire.
3. Don’t try to mimic big companies
You are a small business. Keep it small. Don’t try to copy the big boys. Each small business is unique and you don’t want to lose your sense of purpose or your mission while trying to format your business like a huge chain or company. Your business is one of a kind so start branding like it.
4. Speak in a consistent tone to your customers
Don’t jump around from college professor to student when talking to your customers. People will get confused. If people get confused they will leave. Keep your tone relaxed and consistent. This consistency and clarity will keep customers coming back.
5. Don’t repeat the same message over and over again
Don’t say the same thing all the time. Your customers will get bored and leave you. Figure out new and creative ways to deliver messages to your audience i.e. Videos, podcasts, pictures, info graphics, memes, etc. Stay fresh and current.
Your business’s brand is your baby. You have to teach it to talk and listen to people, to be creative, to be proud of its individuality, and you have to allow it to put its stamp on the world without gripping onto it too tightly.
Small businesses are an important part of America’s culture. However, there will always be competition between big business and mom and pop businesses.
“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” -Simon Sinek
In his 2009 TedTalk, best selling author and thought leader, Simon Sinek explains what makes innovative companies like Apple stand out amongst similar companies using his Golden Circle Model. Although, filmed in 2009 this TedTalk is still relevant because it still applies to companies like Apple.
The Golden Circle Model is made up of three circles with Why in the center, How in the second circle, and What in the outermost circle. Sinek defines Why as why a company does what they do, How as how they do it, and What as a company’s product or end result.
Sinek believes that normally marketers and companies think from the outside in. However, he argues that great leaders and innovators think from the inside out. Apple, for example, he explains that their Why is challenging the status quo and thinking differently. Their How is by making beautifully designed products. Finally, their What is their computers and other products. But, what makes them stand a part from other companies is that they are thinking from the inside out as opposed to the outside in.
An example of thinking from the outside in would be if a car company said that they sell cars. The fact that the company sells cars is the What. The How is if the company said that they spend sixteen hours building a car and the Why would be because they believe in quality cars.
The reason that the car example is different from the Apple example is not just because of a super secret strategy that someone at Apple figured out. Sinek argues that great leaders think differently than others. He suggests that Apple’s marketing strategy is appealing to us on a biological level. In essence, thinking from the inside out of Sinek’s Golden Circle model is catering to our limbic brains, or, the parts of our brain responsible for gut feelings and decision making. Working from the outside in caters to our neocortex which is responsible for analytical and rational thoughts. It’s biologically ingrained in our DNA that we are more likely to follow a movement, buy a product, or hire a service if we believe in the Why behind something as opposed to the What someone is actually doing.
The marketing takeaway from Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle Model is that to truly stand out amongst companies that are providing similar products or services to your company is to think from the inside out. First, figure out Why your company provides the goods or services that it does. To make money is not the whole answer. What is your core message? Why are you doing what you’re doing? Second, figure out the How you do what you do. Lastly, establish What your product or service is.
If companies think from the inside out it is more likely that they will be able to be innovative longer and create more unique messages for their products and services.
View Simon Sinek’s TedTalk on the Golden Circle here: http://bit.ly/1fQ1qY0
Today, it is impossible to walk around outside or even sit at home without encountering some form of Push or Pull Marketing Strategy.
What is a Push Marketing Strategy?
A Push Marketing Strategy “pushes” a product upon consumers through trade shows or retailers.
What is a Pull Marketing Strategy?
A Pull Marketing Strategy is an attempt to bring consumers to you. For example, through media or word of mouth.
Push Marketing in Action…
An example of Push Marketing is when manufacturers incentivise retailers to sell their products to consumers.
Pull Marketing in Action…
An example of Pull Marketing Strategies is when manufacturers use marketing promotions and advertisements of products like perfumes to “pull” customers to stores to buy their products.
Push and Pull Marketing Strategies Working Together…
An example of Push and Pull Marketing Strategies working together is when a consumer wants to buy a perfume like Chanel they will most likely encounter Pull Marketing efforts like a T.V. commercial or a billboard. After encountering these methods a consumer might then go to a department store where they will encounter Push Marketing Strategies like perfume displays or people selling perfume directly to consumers.
Although Push and Pull Marketing Strategies work well separately, modern marketing strategies use a combination of both Push and Pull Marketing to appeal to consumers and eventually land a sale.
Another interesting strategy to approach marketing is through the lens of Simon Sinek’s Ted Talk on leadership called “The Golden Circle”.
…a marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience—with the objective of driving profitable customer action.
But the debate over quality versus quantity is still raging. I say quality over quantity is important because if a reader is not moved to action by what you’re writing then it was a waste of both the reader’s and the writer’s time.
The goal of content marketing is giving your business a face, utilizing SEO, instituting your company as a thought leader, instigating customer loyalty, helping with public relations, and giving your company material to post on social media.
Five specific reasons why content is king include:
SEO- The more unique and individualized your content the higher it will rank on search engines.
Engagement- Quality content will draw the reader to the action of sharing or really absorbing a company’s values and/or ideas.
Generates leads- Good content creates brand awareness in such an expansive market.
Increases traffic- A website with quality and engaging content is more likely to receive traffic than a website without quality content.
Increases quality of your product or service- Practical advices as well as usages of a company’s product or services builds a good relationship between company and customer.
The phrase, “Content is king,” sums up some great principles for content marketing.
Quality over quantity
Content is paramount to social media marketing
After evaluating these two fundamentals, it is prudent to re-visit this check-list after creating your quality content:
Is your content easy to navigate?
Is your content descriptive and accurate?
Is your content formatted to ensure easy skimming and reading?
Is your content engaging?
Does your content include graphics and other relevant media?
Is your content actionable?
Is your content relevant to your chosen search engine queries?
Although it may seem that the amount of content one generates is important, one must remember quantity means nothing unless the content is engaging, easy to read, unique, and primed for SEO. It is quality not quantity content that is an important tool in push versus pull marketing strategies.
Marketing may be integrate now, but, it used to be fragmented. In recent years company to customer interaction has developed in such a way that if a customer is dissatisfied with a company’s product the company will know about it in real time. We’ve grown so used to this constant back and forth between company and customer that we forget that not so long ago (i.e. before the 1990’s) marketing was a one way street. Companies would impress their messages and products upon people without any interaction or feedback.
However, analytical tools that allowed companies to measure consumer data through devices like store scanners allowed marketers to figure out at the point of sale what consumers’ buying habits were. This new wave technology inspired companies to broaden their marketing efforts.
Presently, corporate marketing budgets are being directed toward trade and consumer promotions, advertising, public relations, and branding. There has been a shift away from traditional media and advertising funding allocation to the allocation of funds towards new media.
The conversion from fragmented to Integrated Marketing Communications was accompanied by a few new trends in the marketing industry:
the move from mass media to multiple forms of communication, the move from manufacturer-dominated market to a retailer-dominated, customer controlled market, the growing use of data based marketing as opposed to general-focus advertising, unlimited Internet access and greater online availability of goods and services, a larger focus on developing marketing communications activities that produce value for target audiences while increasing benefits and reducing costs
A comprehensive plan that evaluates the strategic roles of a variety of communication disciplines and combines these disciplines to provide clarity, consistency , and maximum communication impact.
Simply put an IMC strategy is a machine made up of communications channels cogs like social media, T.V., newspaper, ect. The only way to get the IMC strategy machine to work is if these communications channels cogs work together. As a result of the combined efforts of the communications channels cogs, the IMC strategy machine generates for the audience a clear picture of a brand’s image and messaging as it relates to them.
IMC in Action
In 2014 Coca-Cola launched an alternative drink for their original Coca-Cola drink. It was called Coca-Cola Life.
The campaign is being rolled out across 7,000 outdoor locations nation wide with billboards, bus, and digital screen ads; these are all being supported by print, digital, experiential, and point of sale activity. Although television is not being used, the buzz on social media since the drink’s launch has been mainly positive.
Coca-Cola also launched a competition to promote their new Coca-Cola Life drink. On Saturday, September 20th, 2014, Coca-Cola put up a pop-up shop on South Molton Street in London. The shop not only offered samples of Coca-Cola Life, but, also offered prizes like a long weekend in New York. Implementing IMC Coca-Cola offered prizes to people who couldn’t make it to the pop-up shop. In order to win people would have to take pictures of themselves drinking Coca-Cola Life and post them on Instagram with #cocacolalife or #comp.
Some promotional tools marketers use include new media options such as search engine optimization (SEO), banner advertisements, webinars, and blogs. Some traditional media tools marketers use include newspapers, billboards, and magazines.
In addition, Marketers need to come up with a combination of new media and traditional media in order to connect a brand to consumers. This connection will hopefully lead to a strong relationship between brand and consumer. Regardless, the message Marketers put out through new media and traditional media channels needs to stay consistent.
Benefits of IMC
There are multiple benefits for companies who put IMC into place. Some of those benefits include:
By promoting their brand across several social channels Marketers can communicate their brand’s story to their audience
Implementing IMC is cost-effective because consumers are more likely to encounter and interact with a brand across numerous social channels
Marketers can review their progress as a whole as opposed to in fragments
IMC fosters a competitive advantage for companies who want to increase their sales and profits
Implementing an IMC strategy is vital to any marketer looking to create a clear and concise story of their brand across various social channels. However, how a marketer posts is not the only thing he/she should be concerned about, what content a marketer posts is just as important. Yes, content is still king.
Social/digital media marketing is quickly replacing traditional marketing practices. Media outlets such as newspapers, magazines, and billboards will most probably be replaced by digital substitutes within the next ten to fifteen years.
As a Millennial I can tell you that my peers and I use social media outlets such as Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, and SnapChat constantly. Unlike generations before us we did not go to the library, unless forced to, to do research for a paper. Libraries were basically obsolete to us in high school because of online databases like JStore and other Ebraries. Our first instinct was to look online because we wanted to know what people were saying about a certain subject in real time.
It then makes sense that social media would then also be the new frontier of marketing. It is important for marketers to understand how important the utilization of these outlets has become to media strategies.
It is also important for marketers to understand what appeals to millennials in order to figure out the social media metrics for each outlet. Social media metrics are important because social media strategists need to be able to prove how social media investments are helping the companies they work for achieve their broader business goals. Accordingly social media strategists need to prove a social media channel’s return on investments (ROI) in order to demonstrate why investing time and money into social media marketing is important.
More specifically measuring ROI is necessary in proving the value of social media to your organization’s overall goals and business objectives, allowing you to clearly see where efforts and resources are being used efficiently, enabling you to evaluate where resources are being wasted, or not used as efficiently as possible, allowing you to recognize gaps in strategy, key messages, and content, and showing where your social media budget is being used most effectively, and showing areas where it can be pulled back.
It is a good idea to categorize the type of data you gather into quantitative and qualitative. One needs to separate data out into useful and useless data. Quantitative data is useful because when Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) are translated into the Return On Investments (ROI’s) they build a stronger, more solid case as to why social media strategies are vital to a business’s success.
When talking about keeping track of followers I’m talking about keeping track of Audience Growth Rate. Audience Growth Rate is
“A refinement of new followers or similar stats expressed in percentage change over time, the growth rate of your audience depicts your social media momentum.”
Measuring the social media momentum of your business helps you zero in on important information such as Audience Growth Rate as opposed to purely your number of followers.
When measuring engagement you should keep track of Average Engagement Rate. “Your AER compares posts’ engagement with your overall follower base.” Keeping track of AER helps you to determine your target audience amongst a large crowd of followers. The AER defines your core and consistent group of followers.
Measuring acquisition should be done in terms of visitor frequency rate. This metric separates visitors into return visitors and new visitors.
“Return visitors numbers further indicate the depth of engagement and strength of your social networks. New visitors confirm that your more nebulous ‘reach’ and ‘audience’ metrics accurately depict meaningful growth.”
This metric should be monitored because it is important to understand and target new visitors and return visitors.
The conversion metric determines how to convert visitors into sales. However, it should be clear that visitors don’t want to be bombarded by your product either. A good way to determine if your efforts are being well focused is to look at Assisted Social conversion, or, visitors who are referred through various social channels.
Tracking these conversions using Google Analytics or other tools can help determine which parts of your social media strategy are affective and which are not. They also can help determine which social media channels your target audiences uses the most so you can utilize them as much as possible in your social media strategy and focus less on the social media channels that your audience does not use.
One way to figure out how social media helps your business is to derive Customer Service Savings from the data you collect. One equation, for example, is:
Repeating this process over a hundred times could result in significant savings for your company.
Other metrics to measure include likes, retweets, favorites, shares, comments, and mentions. Measuring these metrics allows social media strategists to see how their audience is responding to the content that the strategists generate. These metrics also allow social media strategists to track and measure if they are increasing engagement on social media.
At the end of the day the world is going digital. Accordingly, social media marketing is an extremely important piece of any business’s integrated marketing strategy.